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18 February 2004

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Releases Farmers’ Intention Survey 2003/2004

Afghanistan: Higher Opium Production Feared in 2004

VIENNA, 18 February (UN Information Service) -- Last year Afghanistan produced its highest amount of opium since 1999, estimated at 3,600 metric tons. The harvest accounted for more than three quarters of the world’s illicit opium production.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Afghanistan Farmers’ Intention Survey 2003/2004 released today in Vienna, investigated the potential cultivation trends for 2004, farmers’ motivations for growing poppy or not, and their socio-economic background. The Survey was launched by UNODC and the Afghan Counter Narcotics Directorate (CND) in October 2003, shortly before the start of the 2004 opium season.

The report shows that opium poppy cultivation could expand further in 2004. “Two farmers out of three interviewed (…) stated they intended to increase significantly their opium poppy cultivation in 2004.”

Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the UNODC Executive Director, stated that “persistent poverty, high opium prices and loans from traffickers are the main reasons for the higher opium production expected in 2004.” According to the report, farmers were clearly aware of the government ban on opium production; the short-term benefits of the activity, however, have so far continued to outweigh the potential risks, such as law enforcement measures.

The Survey also shows that most of the farmers own the land they cultivate, and that they themselves decide what to plant. Overall, a quarter of Afghan farmers engaged in opium poppy cultivation in 2003. Opium plantations covered 27 per cent of the land they cultivated, but produced more than 60 per cent of their annual income. Poppy seeds are easy to obtain, either from the previous harvest or the local markets.

Previous eradication of opium and economic assistance have had limited impact on intentions to cultivate opium poppy so far. The volume, scope and modality of those interventions therefore need to be reassessed. “The results of this survey impart the unequivocal warning that illegal opium production will continue to thrive unless resolute actions are taken: economic assistance for farmers, eradication of opium fields and interdiction of traffickers,” Mr. Costa stressed. “The formidable threat which the opium economy poses to peace, stability and socio-economic recovery in Afghanistan will otherwise continue to increase.”

Mr. Costa outlined the results of the Farmers’ Intention Survey 2003/2004 at the International Conference on Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan held in Kabul on 8 and 9 February.

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The Afghanistan Farmers’ Intention Survey 2003/2004 can be accessed at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) website at /afg/en/reports_surveys.html